Elizabeth Casey: February 2012 Archives


Nelzon Cruz, Bengie Molina, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers wearing Phiten necklaces. Source: Wired.com

If you catch baseball games from time to time, perhaps you've noticed players walking around wearing trendy-looking braided necklaces. They are called Phiten necklaces, and like holographic bracelets, they are often associated with fitness and elevated performance levels. I'm a firm believer in skepticism and because these 'performance enhancers' tend to be bunk, I checked out Phiten's official website to explore whether their marketing campaign uses any logical fallacies.

On Phiten's website, I quickly noticed the incredible vagueness with which they describe their products. Phiten's claim to fame is coating their fabric apparel with a titanium-water solution, as their Technology section describes. There's also a physical fitness aspect to Phiten's products, clear from the section dedicated to famous athletes, and Phiten's own claims to support "principles of health and well-being." But noticeably absent is a specific claim as to how the coated fabrics help people perform physical activities.

Phiten helps "everyone, from hardcore athletes to weekend warriors, to get them through the daily grind and to support a healthy and active lifestyle." But what exactly does this mean? This claim is so unspecific that it is impossible to disprove, meaning Phiten is committing the falsifiability fallacy. What surprised me is that Phiten actually doesn't seem to commit the extraordinary claims fallacy - there is no evidence because there is no actual claim. This renders Occam's razor and replicability irrelevant, as well.


But Phiten's logic also reveals an unwillingness to explore rival hypotheses. If their products really do help people "get through the daily grind," there are many potential explanations as to why - including the placebo effect, which has been shown to influence study subjects time and time again. (The placebo effect may have a bigger influence in sports than we realize, according to a Journal of Sports Science and Medicine study - click 'find it' to access.)

I think this is evidence of why we as consumers should be skeptical of strange, magical-sounding products on the market. I personally find the marketing of such things pretty reprehensible. Though Phiten certainly has the legal right to sell things, playing off of consumers' weaknesses like this can promote ideas that we as a science-embracing society should collectively try not to support.

Have you had experiences with products or services that had similar claims to Phiten's? What happened? Do you like them, dislike them, or feel somewhere in the middle about them?

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Elizabeth Casey in February 2012.

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